SC homeless population growing, new report shows

A report on homelessness across the state shows an 18 percent increase in that population in recent years.
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 2:30 PM EST|Updated: Jan. 2, 2023 at 6:26 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A report on homelessness across the state shows an 18 percent increase in that population in recent years.

The most recent annual report from the South Carolina Interagency Council on Homelessness, a statewide network of advocates and service providers working to end homelessness, focuses on trends and demographics from 2021. The report shows 13,399 people received homeless services in the state in 2021. That is an 18% jump from 10,969 people in 2020.

Aaron Comstock, the founder of Uplift Charleston, works with volunteers and donations to provide survival essentials to people experiencing homelessness. He and others who work with him meet people of all kinds on the streets.

“We believe that is how many they found – 13,000. We believe that number is more likely up around 15 to 20 anywhere between that area,” Comstock says. “We’re talking about homeless families, homeless children, homeless veterans, single mothers, we’re not talking about one particular thing. We’re talking about people who are on the streets and we need to put those faces with those names and actually make a difference.”

Click here to read the full report on the SCICH website.

While single adults made up 90% of the people served, according to the report, more than 2,000 children are included in the total number. The children average about eight years old and the adults average about 46 years old.

More than half of the people recorded as experiencing homelessness said it had been more than a year since they had permanent shelter. About a third said it was their first time in a homeless situation.

Comstock says donations and overnight warming shelters are mitigation measures, but a solution would take a lot more work. He’s calling on elected officials to get involved in securing money for real solutions in 2023. Comstock says those could be transition homes and affordable housing.

“We’re not talking for life or giving them homes. We’re talking about giving them 6 to 8 to 12 months where they can live in a place where they can get all their finances in order, get counseling if they need it, and then get a job and build an income and be able to go out,” Comstock says.

Comstock encourages people to advocate for these changes at local and state levels. He suggests letter-writing campaigns and organizations attending council meetings to shed light on the need for legislation to combat homelessness challenges.

“Once a homeless person has got income are they going to find something they can afford now that they got out of the transitional home? Well, that’s something else that our local governments and state governments really need to represent and solve,” Comstock says.

The report also includes a point-in-time statistic recorded on Jan. 26, 2022. On that single night, 3,608 persons were counted as experiencing homelessness in South Carolina. Comstock says in Charleston especially, nonprofits are often overwhelmed trying to help people experiencing homelessness.

“There’s just nowhere for them to go. There’s one homeless shelter and it’s usually full,” Comstock says. “We need people to go to council meetings, we need people to write their senators, we need to go to the representative offices to demand – this is a problem, what are you going to do to solve it. Donate clothes and coats and jackets and jeans and gloves and hats – food, but we really need help solving homelessness and that could happen through the legislative process.”